The Sandman Cometh: Sound Solutions for a Satisfying Sleep

excerpted with permission from:
Good Nights – The Happy Parents’ Guide to the Family Bed
(and a Peaceful Night’s Sleep!)

by Jay Gordon, M.D. and Maria Goodavage
Griffin Trade Paperback
ISBN: 0312275188

excerpt from Chapter Four —
The Sandman Cometh: Sound Solutions for a Satisfying Sleep

In this chapter we will bring you answers to questions we’ve been asked by family bed parents about ways to get a better night’s sleep. If you have a nighttime woe from the family bed, you’ll probably find a solution to it here.

Q: In three months we’re expecting our second child, and our two-year-old son is still in bed with us. I don’t think he’s ready to move into his own bed yet, and I really don’t mind if he stays. But I don’t know how we can make it work with two kids and two parents. What should we do?

A: Your son may not care to move out of bed yet, but his own bed may start looking mighty appealing to him when the new baby takes up residency in your bed. In fact, a top reason children leave the family bed is because of the arrival of a new sibling there. As Angie, a mother of a three year old and a newborn, told us, “Our son put up with the decreased space, the baby noises, and my waking for night feedings for two nights. On the third night, he asked if he could sleep in his own bed, and that was that.”

If you think your son will opt to stay on, you may want to consider creating more space by having him move to his own twin bed pushed right up flush beside yours. If you can get it at the same level, it’s more like an extension of your own bed, and he may well enjoy the extra space of this “big boy” bed. The big benefit is safety, since you don’t want to be like a tin of sardines when the baby arrives.

Another option for your bed setup is to place mattresses or futons on the floor, side by side. (As we mentioned earlier, if you’re going to do this, make sure the floors are as free of dust as possible so allergies don’t become and issue.) A few families we’ve interviewed have had a room filled with wall-to-wall mattresses for them and their two or three (or in one, case, four) children. These parents have warm and fuzzy memories of waking up in the morning with little limbs and faces everywhere. “I wouldn’t trade those times for anything in the world,” says one such den mother.

Whatever setup you choose, it’s important that your infant doesn’t sleep beside your older child. Sleeping children don’t always have the same awareness of their surroundings as adults and can pose a hazard to a baby.

A final note: We advise any parent who will be changing the bed setup because of a new baby to make any changes at least a few months before the baby’s arrival. That way the child doesn’t see the baby as displacing him.

Q: Any ideas on how I can have a little time to myself while my baby naps? Right now she’s as a point where she wakes up when I put her down for a nap, and I’m getting frustrated.

A: This question doesn’t have the nice, neat sleep-stage answer the previous one did because naps are a different animal from nighttime sleep, and vary greatly. But there are a couple of tips we can give you.

If your baby takes two naps a day, your best bet for being able to leave her sleeping happily on her own is the afternoon nap. REM sleep (the active, lighter sleep stage) often predominates in morning naps, according to sleep expert Dr. Anders, and NREM sleep (deeper sleep, harder-to-wake baby) in afternoons. Wait until you see the signs of deep sleep mentioned in the previous answer, and then make your getaway after you’re sure she’s in a safe place. See “Naptime Notes,” page, 66, for more on safety for babies sleeping alone.

We also highly recommend “wearing” your baby in a sling or other kind of baby carrier during her naps. She’ll likely sleep very well nestled beside your moving body, and you can get lots done while she sleeps. Granted, you won’t be solo, and you won’t be able to clean the oven or scrub the tub (darn!), but at least your hands and legs will be free.

Another possible solution for you is a baby swing. Some parents swear by baby swings, other swear at them, thinking of them as just another mechanical substitute for mom. In the same vein, some babies love swings, while others would swear at them if they could. We say if you need some time alone, and your baby is happy in the swing, let her take little naps in it.

return to Jay Gordon Collection

Excerpted with permission from
Good Nights: The Happy Parents’ Guide to the Family Bed (And a Peaceful Night’s Sleep)
by Jay Gordon, M.D. and Maria Goodavage, copyright 2002


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